The quick rise in the use of social media has changed the landscape of mental health. I am sure you have already heard some of the arguments of why it is bad, how much is too much, and maybe some of the positives. I am not here to swing one way or the other, except to stress the importance of limits. Everything in moderation.
It is my tendency in life— and in practice— to first focus on the positives. Social media was created for one simple reason— to bring us together. Having access to others who think and feel the way we do can be a very good thing. Especially in situations where someone is dealing with the loss of a loved one or is suicidal and looking for support. Social media has allowed more of these connections to be made so that we can lean on each other in ways we never could before. We can be lifted up and know we are not alone in this life.
A Positive Example
I know of a woman who was experiencing a difficult time in her life, desperate for answers, for connection, for hope of some kind. She scoured the internet for message boards and social groups. What she found was a group of women going through the exact thing as her. And, although these women were miles away from her she was able to find support and a channel to air her grievances. She found hope and the ability to move forward.
Social Media Can Cause “Compare and Despair”
Constant human connection is not always a good thing, though. That is where the bad comes in. When we have constant exposure to other people we can get so immersed in their lives that it can impact our self-confidence and happiness levels. After a while of looking at people’s profiles you start to compare yourself to those people—why are all my friends having babies? Why is everyone so happy? So successful? What am I good for? Many times what you see on social media is the very good in people’s lives or the very bad. It is not a realistic representation of what their lives are really like.
It is also addictive, time-consuming, and makes it hard to separate yourself and focus on your own personal well being. Not to mention all that time spent looking at a screen is taking away from our one-on-one time, our ability to connect in person with others. We are looking down and missing all the good stuff.
Ask Yourself “Does Social Media Have a Positive or Negative Effect on Me?”
The real purpose of this post was to encourage you to think about how social media is impacting your life, your mental health. Next time you use it, think about how you feel when you are done—are you happier? Or are you feeling sad, depressed about some aspect of your life? I also strongly encourage a hiatus from social media if you are able. Put the phone away and focus on being present in the world around you. It could be eye-opening.
Author: Alison Pidgeon, LPC
Alison is the Founder and CEO of Move Forward Counseling, a boutique private practice for women with three locations in Lancaster County, PA. She is passionate about reducing the stigma related to accessing mental health services. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.